The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl (♦♦♦)
Belial, Kitten, and Penrose (Pen) Davenport are the three best bookaneers the world has ever known. But with the advent of stricter copyright laws in the last decades of the 19th century, the loophole that has allowed them to steal literary manuscripts for profit, with some impunity, is coming to a close. The bookaneers' way of life is endangered.
Kitten has fallen victim in her search of her own Holy Grail. Only Belial and Davenport have survived, but they are about to have the duel of their lives when they travel to the islands of Samoa in the South Pacific, in search of the last novel, supposedly a masterpiece, penned by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Having read Dante Club when it was first released and being one of my all-time favorite books, when I had the opportunity to request a copy of The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl, I didn't think twice. Pearl has gotten comfortable in the literary thriller genre he writes so well. Unfortunately, Dante Club, his debut novel, set the bar too high even for himself. In Dante Club there is the enduring mystery of who is behind the killings that match exact descriptions of the passages of Dante's Inferno as discussed by a literary club of eminent Bostonians. The plot was as enthralling as it was clever, and Dante Club became a literary sensation. This time around the plot is less ambitious and though the writing is so brilliant that it reads like a genuine 19th century novel, the result is rather labored.
The Last Bookaneer is an old fashion adventure in an exotic locale. That would have been a great start if the story had been about pirates, which it is in a sense (of the literary kind), but I'm afraid I didn't find the bookaneers, or their journey, fascinating enough. I liked Mr. Fergins, the narrator, but though the plot revolves around one bookaneer, others of his kind come and go throughout the novel and none of them is interesting or likeable enough.
Having read a book like Dante Club is enough to give Pearl the benefit of the doubt, but...will lightning strike twice?
DISCLAIMER: I received from the publisher a free Galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.